Merry Christmess

We were home for Christmas today. First time in years we have not lugged our cranky selves and suitcases full of presents across multiple state lines.

And I’m not gonna lie: it was great.

Sure, there was the miscommunication about the grocery shopping. I thought the hubs picked up the beef roast yesterday, and he figured I had done it. Turns out nobody did. And then there was the dollhouse. Did either of us feel like assembling it when we got home late last night? Nope. And the crazy early-bird children. Why do they always awaken at the arse-crack of dawn? Whose bright idea was it to put Christmas in the morning anyway? It should totally be a nighttime holiday. When I’m in charge, man, that’s the first change I’m making.

But rather than cataclysmic, most of this stuff was freeing. Because I was bonkers tired, I stayed in jammies most of the day. With no big showy main course, we got resourceful in the kitchen. Our dinner guests were all family. They were fine with the soup, salad, and quiche we tossed together. And unwrapping pieces of a dollhouse in a giant box turns out to be just as fun as unwrapping a whole house. Lizzie even enjoyed assembling the giant multilevel toy with Katie and Dad as helper elves. And even though there are still dishes in the sink and bits of wrapping paper all over the floor, I just put another log on the fire, and I’m heading into the living room to lie on the couch with my kids.

I like to travel. I like visiting folks and hobnobbing at big family functions.

But, especially on days like this, I like home most of all.

Wishing you and yours discombobulation, merriment, and sloth.

Happy Christmas!



You Say It’s Your Birthday?

So it was my birthday again yesterday. As usual, no balloons, no party, no fuss. Unless you count the kids arguing over who got to crack the eggs and their shells into my homemade chocolate cake. Just another day trying to love my children the best that I can.

The photograph you see here is not an AFTER shot. This is not the cake as it was after we had enjoyed our delicious little slices. This is the BEFORE. This is the cake we managed to create when the children complained they did not even like cake, or frosting, and so they wanted sprinkles, and Heath bar pieces, M & M’s, marshmallows, and whipped cream. I cut and plated pieces for all three kids to decorate themselves before we even decorated mine. This crumbling, chocolate Pac-Man cake was the finished product.


The candles, well, we could only find the six we used back in August for Lizzie’s birthday. They started out as balloons, I think, but after repeated use, they looked like rainbow-colored apples with little half-moon bites taken out of each one. As the kids sang their birthday “Cha-cha-cha,” I could see the candles smiling knowingly at me. “You are almost there,” they implied. “Almost there.”

Because parental birthdays, as many of us have experienced, are a matter of survival. Can we just make it through the day before someone barfs, yells at, or pees on Mom? Any other day, any one of those things happens, and nobody bats an eye. But a birthday? Nobody wants to be the weakest link. And the pressure, Oh the miserable pressure, of trying so hard all day long to be extra special nice to Mommy…it’s exhausting. For everyone.

So as ridiculous as it was to share my cake, my candles, and my day with them, that is the grown-up reality of birthdays with children. I do not blame folks who flee to Vegas or Hawaii or NYC. Or those who cash in their about-to-expire Groupons for an overnight at the Casino or some quaint B & B. But if you are not going to hide from your children on your birthday, you are going to have to share it with them. And they will want a piece of everything. They will take bites out of your cake before you frost it. They will unwrap your presents, blow out your candles, and ask for extra snuggle time when you are trying to drink a freshly brewed cup of birthday tea. This can all seem utterly unreasonable — these demands, these pieces, these needs. But it is actually just love.

And, whether I like it or not, one by one, each of their birthdays long ago replaced my birthday, as the most important day of my life. This one? This old bag? It’s just frosting.

With sprinkles. And marshmallows.




Wallowing in a Winter Wonderland

So we stood in line to see Santa yesterday.

There were some problems.

For starters, the Santa-to-child ratio. I’m no mathematician, but my estimates put the number of kids ahead of us at just under 17 million. Number of Santas ministering to those children: one. Those were crap odds.

We know that Santa is clutch. He’s up against heftier numbers on game day, and he always comes through. But that must be due to his crackerjack support network — the elves, the Mrs., the deer. Our Santa… he had staffing problems.

From what I’ve researched, elves are of paramount importance to this whole seeing Santa business. These green-clad minions move folks along. They keep the action merry. But there were no polar aide-de-camps working our line. No one in or out of tights jingled a bell or cheerfully hinted we were getting any closer to the Big Dance. There were no elves staging photographs. Terrified children stood in awe of Santa and/or picked their noses, allowing precious seconds to pass. No elves hustled anyone off of Santa’s lap or hurried families through a candy cane exit.

Seeing Santa is not work you want left to parents. If we wait all that time, when it is finally our turn, we want the perfect shot. We have Facebook pages to update, and friends to Instagram with photos of our kids in complementary reds and greens. We want Santa to hear everyone’s complete list, even little Timmy’s. He is shy, but if you just give him a minute or two, he’ll open up and tell you everything for which he is quietly hoping. The choo choo train. The blocks.

In short, parents are Santa hogs.

Which is why, after an hour-and-a-half, my kids and I were still nowhere near the jolly man in red. I tried bribery. “How about some kettle corn?” And cajoling. “Wouldn’t it be way more fun to see Santa next week at the mall?” I even tried to dash hopes. “Seeing Santa isn’t that big a deal anyway. Who wants hot chocolate?”

My 9-year-old wavered when I mentioned a beverage, but sensing my desperation, insisted on a pizza, too.

My 2-year-old had already bumped into everyone in line near us, so he was eager to break out of the queue to knee-cap new victims.

But 5-year-old Lizzie would not budge. Her eyes were full of hope. She wanted to ask Santa for a Barbie doll. “I know we’ll make it, Mom. We just have to believe.” What could I say?

So for 93 minutes we believed.

But then Santa left for a smoke break.

And there was some sort of program involving hand bells, and carolers, and a speech about a Christmas tree. I tried to watch. But we were standing in a line that was no longer moving, waiting to see a fictional character who was no longer there.

I lifted the red velvet rope and gently tugged my children out into the darkness.

There was crying on the way home. Also an argument over burritos. I tried to engage them in conversation. “If you had been able to see Santa, what would you have asked for?”

“A new mother,” came the first response. It was fair. They could not be angry with Santa. They could only be angry with me.

dadvmom.com_wallowinginawinterwonderland_heartcandyanesAt home, after a dinner that was neither pizza nor burritos, we wrapped presents for a family whose name we’d pulled at church. A Barbie doll, a train, some matching jammies in red and green. For a little bit, anyway, we played at being their elves.

We drank cocoa and laughed when Dad tried to play “Jingle Bells” on his ukulele.

We told each other what we wanted for Christmas.

And as I snuggled with my children on the couch, once they had determined they no longer hated me, I decided that Santa Claus could kiss my ass.

Originally published on the Huffington Post.


You Say It’s My Birthday?

Another birthday has come and gone.

My children, God bless them, tried so hard.

All day, they squabbled incessantly trying to celebrate me. “No, I want to sit next to Mom!” “But it’s MY turn!” They shoved one another off the couch, and argued over who got to unwrap the presents they offered. The sunscreen. The stapler. The pancake mix.

There were the usual culinary efforts. Lizzie made me a box of macaroni and cheese, her favorite, and then she and Henry ate it themselves.

Katie measured the baking soda for the cupcakes and learned that “not all spoons are teaspoons.” The density of the puck-like cakes notwithstanding, this really was one of her better birthday confections. I much preferred it to the gluten-free pineapple upside-down porridge of a year ago.



This year, the children even gave me some alone time to write, journeying with their father to the 99 Cents Only Store. They returned with provisions for a new activity on the birthday agenda – Spa Time.

The basic rules are these:

1. Plunk Mom in the bathtub with her feet in a cold soak.

2. Slather her in cheap skin products.

3. Smile.

I am a person who eschews bottled fragrances. My children know this. I don’t favor perfumes, body sprays, or scented roll-on deodorants. Hand lotion makes me sweat. And I have never understood aromatherapy, unless is the actual real-life smell of cinnamon rolls or chocolate chip cookies. However, for tonight, my daughters had forgotten all that. And for tonight, I sucked it up. After all, it was my birthday present.

A sampling of the evening’s offerings included:

*Mango bubble bath

*Apricot facial scrub

*Coconut foot lotion

*Almond milk hand cream

*Lemon butter cuticle cream

*Mint chocolate lip balm

*And a lavender-scented eye mask.

My girls took turns applying all of it with a wash cloth that smelled like a moldy sock.

While Katie played aesthetician, Lizzie offered me a backrub she called the “poke and scratch.”

I hated every minute of it.

And I loved every minute of it.

Because even though my hands still itch from the horror the kids massaged into my palms, and my toenails are now painted hooker hot pink, for forty-five minutes, my daughters tried to pamper me, to say “We Love You, Mommy!” in the most indulgent way they could imagine. Somewhere beneath the sodium laureth sulfate and yellow number 5 was the admission that Mom’s days are stressful because of us. Tonight, because it was my birthday, they sought to give me ease.

It was a misery. And it was wonderful.